Renewable energy tops 18 percent of U.S. electricity grid, rivaling nuclear

Chron.com (James Osborne):

Solar farms, wind turbines and hydroelectric dams are getting close to surpassing nuclear power plants contribution to the U.S. electrical grid, according to a new report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Last year 18 percent of electrical generation came from renewable energy sources – more than double what they did a decade ago – the report said. Nuclear power plants represent 19.7 percent of the generation on the grid, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, surpassed only by coal and natural gas plants.

“The massive and historic transformation of the U.S. energy sector clicked into a higher gear in 2017, despite some new headwinds including policy uncertainties,” the report entitled “Sustainable Energy in America: 2018 Factbook” read. “Renewable deployment grew at a near- record pace.”

The growth comes even as the Trump administration has curtailed or eliminated restrictions on greenhouse gas restrictions while also trying to expand fossil-fuel production in the United States.

But so far it has done little to turn investors away from renewable energy, which is widely seen as an area of growth in the decades to come as countries try to limit the damage of climate change.

Investment in wind, solar and other renewable technologies totaled $333 billion in 2017, the second highest level on record, according to the Bloomberg report.

The impact on the atmosphere can already be seen. The expansion of renewables, as well as the shift away from coal to natural gas, has sent the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions to their lowest level since 1991, according to Bloomberg.

The latest e-Waternews is hot off the presses from @Northern_Water

Graphic credit: Northern Water

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

Crews from Northern Water work to maintain hydroelectric plant equipment

Workers from Northern Water have taken apart some of the equipment at the Robert V. Trout Hydroelectric Plant at the outlet of Carter Lake as part of the organization’s annual maintenance program for the facility.

On Feb. 8, members of the Northern Water board of directors were told that 2017 was a strong year for electricity production at the plant. Energy is captured from the outlet at Carter Lake as water is delivered into the St. Vrain Supply Canal. That electricity is marketed through the Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association to customers throughout the utility’s service area on the Front Range.

The power plant, one of two hydroelectric generation plants owned by Northern Water, has been in operation since 2012 and is authorized through a Lease of Power Privilege agreement with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. In addition to Northern’s two hydroelectric plants, Reclamation operates six additional Colorado-Big Thompson generation stations that supply renewable energy throughout the American West.

Learn more about power generation at Carter Lake

Update on new hydro generating facility at Pueblo Dam

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From HydroWorld.com (Elizabeth Ingram):

Construction of the 7.5-MW Pueblo small hydro project is well under way, with operations expected to begin in the spring of 2018, according to the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District.

The plant is the first hydroelectric feature added to the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project since the completion of the 233-MW Mount Elbert pump-back hydroelectric plant at Twin Lakes in 1981.

This new facility, on the Arkansas River, will be able to generate electricity at flows ranging from 35 cubic feet per second to 810 cfs. The powerhouse will contain three turbine-generator units and will use the authorized release from the dam to the Arkansas River to generate an average of 28 million kWh of electricity annually, which will equate to about $1.5 million in average revenue per year. Electricity generated will be purchase by the city of Fountain and by Colorado Springs Utilities. After 10 years, Fountain will purchase all of the power generated for the following 20 years.

The total capital cost of the project is estimated to be $19.5 million, which includes a $17.2 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

The planning and permitting process for this hydro facility began in 2011. Because this facility is located at Pueblo Dam, owned by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and will connect to a pipeline also owned by Reclamation, the project required a Lease of Power Privilege. The preliminary LOPP was granted in February 2012, and the final LOPP was granted in April 2017.

The final design of the facility was completed in June 2016, and the construction contract was awarded to Mountain States Hydro in August 2017.

The district says construction complete and commissioning will occur in August 2018.

@AmericanRivers: Don’t let energy companies weaken clean water protections at hydropower dams

The generator building of Glen Canyon hydro power plant in Arizona via Wikimedia.

From American Rivers:

The hydropower industry is pushing a flurry of legislation that would create massive environmental exemptions for hydropower dam operations, taking us back to a time when dam owners could destroy rivers without concern.

If passed, the voices of local communities and people like you would be silenced when it comes to dam operations. We could see more dead fish, more dried up rivers, and degraded water quality on rivers and streams nationwide.

Under the guise of “modernizing” hydropower, these bills actually take hydropower dam operations back decades. They create giant loopholes for hydropower dam operators, so they can avoid requirements to protect fish, wildlife, or water quality. This is about whether states, tribes and citizens will continue to have a say in how dams are operated. It’s about the future of rivers nationwide.

This legislation could result in many more dried up rivers, dead fish and wildlife, and destroyed recreational opportunities. Tell Congress to oppose this power grab by the energy companies.

Click here to take action.

Three reasons for optimism about climate change — The Mountain Town News

Coyote Gulch’s Leaf connected in the parking garage in Winter Park, August 21, 2017.

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Despite Trump, train has already left the station, says former Obama aide

U.S. President Donald Trump has initiated steps to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement and end the Clean Power Plan. But a former advisor to President Barack Obama was anything but gloomy recently as he cited three major reasons for optimism.

Brian Deese said one reason was that economic growth has been decoupled from growth in carbon emissions. This was discovered as the United States emerged from the recession. Obama was in Hawaii when Deese informed him of the paradigm shift that had been observed.

Brian Deese photo credit Wikipedia.com.

“I don’t believe you,” Obama said, according to the story Deese told in a forum on the University of Colorado campus that was sponsored by the Center for Science and Technology Policy Research.

Chastened, Deese double-checked his sources. He had been right. Always before, when the economy grew, so did greenhouse gas emissions. Now, the two have been decoupled. This decoupling blunts the old argument that you couldn’t have economic growth while tackling climate change. The new evidence is that you can have growth and reverse emissions.

The second reason for optimism, despite the U.S. exit from Paris, is that other countries have stepped up. Before, there was a battle between the developed countries, including the United States, and China, Indian and other still-developing countries. Those developing countries said they shouldn’t have to bear the same burden in emissions reductions.

But now, those same countries — Chna, India and others — want to keep going with emissions reductions even as the United States falters. They want to become the clean-energy superpowers.

“China, India and others are trying to become the global leaders in climate change. They see this as enhancing their economic and political interests,” he said. “They want to win the race.”

That same day, the Wall Street Journal reported in a front-page story that China plans to force automakers to accelerate production of electric vehicles by 2019. The move, said the newspaper, is the “latest signal that officials across the globe are determined to phase out traditional internal combustion engines that use gasoline and diesel fuels in favor of environmentally friendly vehicles powered by batteries, despite consumer reservations.”

The story went on to note that India has a goal to sell only electric vehicles by 2030 while the U.K. and France are aiming to end sales of gasoline and diesel vehicles by 2040.

In the telling of the change Deese said this shift came about at least partly as the result of an unintended action — and, ironically, one by the United States. Because of China’s fouled air, the U.S. embassy in Beijing and other diplomatic offices in China had installed air quality monitors, to guide U.S. personnel in decisions regarding their own health.

Enter the smart phone, which became ubiquitous in China around 2011 to 2012. The Chinese became aware of a simple app that could be downloaded to gain access to the air quality information. In a short time, he said, tens and then hundreds of millions of Chinese began agitating about addressing globalized air pollution, including emissions that are warming the climate.

A third reason for optimism, said Deese, is that Trump’s blustery rhetoric has galvanized support for addressing climate change. Some 1,700 businesses, including Vail Resorts, have committed to changes and 244 cities, representing 143 million people, have also said they want to briskly move toward renewable energy generation.

To this, Deese would like to add the conservation community, by which he seemed to mean hunters and fishermen. “In the United States, we need to reach people where they are, and communicate to them how they are being affected by climate change,” he said.

He also thinks scientists need to step up to advocate. “Use your voice,” said Deese, now a fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. “The rest of the world is there.”

@USBR grant ($965,000) to Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and Grand Valley Water Users Association for hydro plant

Photo credit: The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel.

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

Construction could begin this year on upgrading the hydroelectric plant on the Colorado River near Palisade with a $965,000 federal grant.

The Bureau of Reclamation on Tuesday awarded the grant to the Orchard Mesa Irrigation District and Grand Valley Water Users Association.

The grant is one of 43 WaterSmart grants made to agencies around the country and will help fund a $5.2 million project to replace and upgrade the turbines at the plant.

The turbines now in the plant are the original equipment installed in 1932, Orchard Mesa Irrigation District General Manager Max Schmidt said.

He decided to seek the grant last year after the plant was shut down and he inspected the turbines…

Better turbines will make it possible for the plant to generate 4.1 megawatts, or an expansion of 1.35 megawatts.

It also will allow for the plant to generate an additional 6,000 megawatt-hours.

The improvement and new power generation will maintain and protect the plant’s existing water right and help assure that there will be enough water in the Colorado River’s 15-mile reach for endangered fish, in particular the Colorado pike minnow, razorback sucker and humpback chub, the Colorado River District noted.

Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via Colorado.com

Southeastern Colorado Water inks agreement with Fountain and Fort Carson for hydro project

The new north outlet works at Pueblo Dam — Photo/MWH Global

From The Colorado Springs Gazette (Conrad Swanson):

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which owns and operates the Pueblo Dam, signed an agreement last week allowing for the soon-to-be-built plant to connect to the dam, Chris Woodka, the district’s issues management program coordinator, said in a release.

The agreement was signed after the Colorado Springs City Council unanimously approved the creation of a military sales tariff on Tuesday. The tariff will cover costs for Colorado Springs Utilities to act as an intermediary, buying power from the district and selling it to Fort Carson.

With all the necessary agreements in place, the district hired Mountain States Hydro, LLC, to build the $19 million plant, Woodka said. Construction will begin in September and the plant should be operational by the spring.

Half of the electricity from the plant, estimated to be up to 7.5 megawatts, will be sold to Fort Carson and the other half will be sold to Fountain Utilities.

The plant is expected to generate about $1.4 million in revenue each year, Woodka said.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Jon Pompia):

“This is a monumental moment in the history of the district,” said Jim Broderick, the district’s executive director. “We have been working to put all of the pieces in place since 2011. Now that this project is coming to fruition, it represents not only a sustainable income stream for our stakeholders, but develops a clean source of power for the future.”

Added Chris Woodka, the district’s issues management program coordinator, “The Lease of Power Privilege clears the way for the hydropower plant to connect to Pueblo Dam, a federally owned structure. Mike Ryan, director of the Great Plains Region for Reclamation, signed the lease Friday.”

In order to satisfy all federal requirements related to the project, members of the district have been working for the past 18 months to put a series of other agreements in place.

“The district has contracted with Mountain States Hydro, LLC, to build the plant,” Woodka said, “with construction to begin in September. It is scheduled to be completed during the fall and winter months when releases from Pueblo Dam generally decrease.”

It’s anticipated that the plant will be online by spring 2018.

The plant will cost about $19 million to build. Last year, the district secured a $17.2 million loan from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, with the district’s business enterprise providing matching funds.

Over time, those funds will be paid off by revenues from the sale of power.

For a decade, power from the plant will be purchased by the city of Fountain and by Colorado Springs Utilities for use at Fort Carson.

“After that, Fountain intends to purchase all of the power for at least 20 more years,” Woodka said.

The plant will generate up to 7.5 megawatts of power by using three turbines capable of producing power from 35 to 800 cubic feet per second of flow in the Arkansas River. Water will pass through a connection that was built into the service line for the Southern Delivery System, then into the Arkansas River.

Projections by district staff show that an average of 28 million kilowatt hours will be produced annually, with about $1.4 million in average revenue per year.

This money will be used to pay off the CWCB loan and to satisfy contractual agreements with the Bureau of Reclamation, as well as a carriage agreement with Black Hills Energy. All remaining funds will go to enterprise activities, including the Arkansas Valley Conduit.